f-f-f-forty was f-f-f-fabulous!

You guys. TODAY IS MY LAST DAY OF BEING 40. How did this even happen?? Seems like just yesterday I was writing a post about turning the Big 4-0. But, apparently, it was a whole 366 days ago. Man.

As I reflect on my 41st year (you do know that the year you are 40 is not your 40th year, right?), I’m a little overwhelmed by all that happened and all that God did. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, shall we?

October 31, 2015: We got FANCY.
I started 40 off with a bang by convincing my sweet family that spending FOUR hours getting beauty treatments and trying on costumes and smiling and posing for photos was a FUN way to spend a Saturday. We did a FORMAL traditional Khmer FAMILY photo shoot, and it was the best gift I’ve ever gotten.

November 2015: FORGING a new path.
We started new jobs. Our whole family began training at The Hard Places Community in Phnom Penh with plans to start a new Punlok Thmey Center in Siem Reap in January.

January 2, 2016: FACING FEARS (big FEARS).
I have several fears–the fear of looking stupid, the fear of being wrong, the fear of looking stupid. But my biggest, awful-est fear is my FEAR of heights. So, on this day in history, I jumped off a 10-meter platform diving board into a pool of water. I still can’t believe I did it. AND I NEVER EVER WANT TO DO IT AGAIN.

January 16, 2016: FINDING our way in a new city.
We loaded all of our earthly belongings (including Gabe’s moto) onto a truck (well, WE didn’t do it–Gabe’s mover friends did) and sent the truck ahead of us while we got on a bus and rode six hours to our new home. I remember our FIRST night in our big, dirty, quiet, eerie house. There were lots of tears and, “WHAT HAVE WE DONE?” (It got better.)

January 17, 2016: FAMOUS FAMILY.
We had an inkling of the viral nature of our aforementioned Khmer family photo when we were in Phnom Penh. It had been liked and shared thousands of times by our Khmer friends and then all their friends, etc. But it wasn’t until we moved to a village six hours away and everyone already knew who we were because “they saw us on Facebook” that we realized just how far our “fame” had reached. To this day, any time Gabe shows a new friend (in the city, in a village, wherever) our photo, roughly 3 out of 4 of them have already seen it.

February 20, 2016: Opening the Center with great FANFARE.
We held a Grand Opening for the community on this crazy day with LOTS of help from friends in Phnom Penh and around 300 people (and 5 government officials) came to celebrate. It was well worth all the crazy hard work we put into it.

March and April 2016: FUN, FATIGUE, & FLAMING-hot weather.
March and April are the hottest months of the year in Cambodia with temps in triple-digits (Fahrenheit) just about every day and zero rain. The center took off, and we all worked really hard and welcomed several temporary staff into our home who quickly became like FAMILY.

May 1, 2016: FREEDOM Church.
Little did we know when we walked through the doors of FREEDOM Church for the FIRST time on the FIRST day of May that it would end up rocking our world and changing our lives in a crazy way.

June 8, 2016: FAR-AWAY travels.
We boarded a plane late at night for Shanghai, then on to NYC, where we had a bit of a FIASCO and were rescued by a FRIEND’S kind brother and drove 10 hours on to Ohio to reunite with FRIENDS and FAMILY. The following two months were FILLED with FUN and FEASTING and FEELINGS of all kinds.

June 27, 2016: FALTERING FAITH.
Faltering faith isn’t really the phrase I want, but I couldn’t find any F words for “shock” and “incomprehension.” This is the day we got the email telling us we’d have to move out of our house when we got back to Cambodia. The weeks that followed were kind of a FOG because we were supposed to be resting, not FRETTING about our FUTURE. Sigh.

July 16, 2016: 10-mile Walk Against Traffick–what a FEAT.
We were totally blown away by the outpouring of support from friends and family who showed up to walk 10 miles to FIGHT human trafficking in Cambodia. We raised over $10,000. FLIPPING CRAZY.

July 22, 2016: FIRED.
Man. We had just two weeks left in America at that point, and they were rough. I look forward to our next visit to the States two years from now and hope/pray it’s a totally different kind of experience. Happy, care-free, lovely, that sort of thing. We are eternally grateful for FAITHFUL FRIENDS and supporters who hugged & loved & prayed us through the whole thing.

August 8, 2016: FAREWELLS.
Saying good-bye to people you love for two whole years can be brutal. And I don’t imagine it ever gets easier.

August & September, 2016: FORGIVENESS & FORGETTING what’s behind.
God slowly but surely helped us look at what happened, not as FAILURE, but as a chance to see him as FAITHFUL. And as an opportunity to FORGIVE and move on into a wonderful FUTURE.

October 8, 2016: FIRST time driving a moto.
It took me almost 41 years to buy a moto and learn to drive it. Oh, the FREEDOM. I’ve had several mishaps, and I still FEEL FEAR pretty much every time I go somewhere, but I’M DOING IT. And it feels GOOD.

October 24, 2016: FULFILLING a FIVE-year dream.
Almost FIVE years ago, God gave Gabe a vision of what he wanted him to do in Cambodia. Last week, it became reality as he hired FOUR young adults (3 Khmer, 1 Almost-Khmer) and is training them to do web design, photography, video, and other kinds of media. More details to come!

October 29, 2016: FIVE more years with my husband.
On this day FIVE years ago, we almost lost Gabe to a massive heart attack. Praise you, God, for extending his life.

TODAY: Freedom Church Community Outreach Team
Gabe and I are the new directors of this pretty awesome thing at our church. Today is the day we announce it with a fun video Gabe’s new crew put together and recruit people to join us. Woot!

My 41st birthday and an AWESOME CHALLENGE WITH PRIZES for all of YOU. See you soon!

2 thoughts on “f-f-f-forty was f-f-f-fabulous!

  1. Pingback: the “41” challenge! – Marla Taviano

  2. Sharon Wang

    Happy Birthday, Marla!!!! So fun to see the recap. I was confused, at first when you were saying it was your birthday. It took me a bit to remember that you are ahead of those of us in the US.

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